It's finally raining here in the great Pacific Northwest, so I'm taking the time to dig through old photo files and prune. Yes, I am a packrat, and 15 years or more of digital files do add up, especially when you start going through the reams of pictures your kids took for school projects or just for fun over the years. I remember my son loving his Larry Bird #33 shoes, but didn't realize he was so happy with them that he had to have taken over 50 pictures... Front. Back. Logo. Number.... Oh my. It sure brought back memories seeing shots taken from behind the furniture while he was playing spy over the years. He was our little
The problem is that unless you are a very organized person, over many years and a few computers you end up with a lot of copies of the same pictures hogging up room on your drive, especially if you are careful to duplicate files before editing them so you don't accidentally destroy your originals. (You do that, right?) But if you save every version of every edit because you're afraid you've missed something... Well, it all goes crazy from there!
There are some great computer clean-up programs that go through your file systems to weed out duplicates, but if you've named your photos differently as you processed them or have original unedited files as well as edited files, modified projects, and different sizes of the same image, it can get pretty overwhelming. Especially once you have literally thousands of images.
Some people find that organizing by date works for them, and then by name, event, or subject matter. Make folders and subfolders for each of those things, which will help greatly. Most importantly of all, tag or keyword your photos as you edit them in the first place. That way you can go into your photo browser, enter a tag or keyword into the search function, and all the pictures in your file system that you've labeled with that word or words will come up.
I always add the year and month to my tags, as well as the prominent color, or colors, not just the subject matter. That way if I want photos to complement each other in an album or art project, I can put my hands on the appropriate files quickly rather than digging and viewing file after file after file. Be specific. Instead of just car, also put in the type of car, for instance, or the activity. Johnny, football, tackle, catch, 2012, cowboys jersey, yard, night time, fall... you get the picture. Not only is it a huge timesaver, but it's saved my bacon when I've been tired and clicked ok and let the computer put my file somewhere weird more than once. (What's this picture doing in my recipe file?)
Adobe Bridge, a part of the Photoshop suite, is an example of organization software. The software that comes with your camera will also probably (hopefully) do this, as well as Windows Live Photo Gallery or whatever Microsoft is calling it this week. Frankly, it doesn't thrill me. Free software such as Picasa from google is easy and intuitive for this. It will also do quick low resolution files appropriate for the web without affecting the originals, which is a nice feature if you aren't into a lot of time-consuming photo editing.
Remember, 72 dpi is the resolution you want for sharing on the internet.
While your photo organizer software has a setting that organizes your pictures by date, it's not totally reliable. Often the picture will be filed by the date it was last edited, and not the date that it was taken. Be sure you add the original photo date to your keyword tags too, just in case that happens. That way you won't have to search through 40 file folders looking for the kid's football pictures while Aunt Mabel is peeking over your shoulder. You really don't want Aunt Mabel seeing that you spent vacation with Uncle Ted and not her... You won't live that down. For the sake of family peace, organize! 🙂